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tv   The Stream  Al Jazeera  December 24, 2013 12:30pm-1:01pm EST

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of the latest through the day, that is thank you for your time and keep it here. ali. you're on the stream. you hear about local police durng into little brother. -- turning into little brother. lisa fletcher is out, but we've got omar, as digital producer. >> i.t. has really lit up. we put out the question of
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whether investing money and whether it's being effective, cyrus says, in new york city it has not. but effective counterterrorism doesn't mean legal, and legal doesn't mean moral. eric says, long story short, having a good relationship with local law enforcement organizations is key, but not the picture look. then jeff who says, when are people going to pretend that surveillance is anything but unchecked power. >> we want you to be part of the conversation . #ajam stream. 1984, the dangers about a surveillance state. but that was decades ago. often overlooked the role of local and state law enforcement. what some people call little brother. >> what we realized after 9/11, is terrorists don't respect are
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responsibility and lines of jurisdiction, as regional lines we need to work together to defeat that threat. >> reports of suspicious activity get sent to fusion centers which security analysts say is key. serve and protect is ineffective and infringes on our civil little bit. is little brother effective or counterproductive? joining us is jim harp he, director of informational studies at that time cato center. michael price author of a recent bennett center report recommending reforms for the role of local police and national security. welcome to the stream everyone. traditionally, counterterrorism was a federal responsibility. how did local law enforcement come into the picture? >> thank you very much for inviting us on the show and allowing us to give our perspective.
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post9/11, the information sharing was critical. conversely from the federal level to the state and local level we saw a big gap and right after september 11th, the number of states decided, you know what, we need to bill operations to share data. we currently have 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the united states. about 760,000 state and local law enforcement officers. and one of the big gaps we had was there was no platform to share information across all those agencies. not related to terrorism but related to criminal investigations and intelligence information-sharing. so the state started building these centers early on, and within a good five year period we had 40 centers and now over ten years later we have 78 centers across the country which are tying together those 18,000 local agencies and bringing out the information that folks are finding on the street and
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pushing that forward to fusion centers based on what we have determined, after years of looking at all types of criminal behavior including terrorism, are those precursor signs of that type of activity. >> speaking about early on jim you were finding members of dhs's privacy committee. question to you, should low law enforcement and these fusion centers play a role in the current counterterrorism strategy? >> after 9/11, everyone had good intentions but thousands of security ships sailed and didn't have fusion centers. literally there aren't enough terrorists in the u.s. to justify these fusion centers. terrorism is criminal activity and so rooting out basic criminal activity is basic, special fusion centers are really a miss appropriation of funds and better money could be
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spent on ordinary policing that could deliver more bang for the buck. >> omar what are people saying? >> feedback and disagreement about how police departments are actually using their policing powers. karen say too many police departments are overregio overreaching, to protect and serve means nothing anymore. and if you have done nothing you have nothing to worry about, and sarah our rights are being violated and taking away, and people could care less saying, i've done nothing wrong in quotes. pretty strong words there. miecialg there's a lot of -- michael there's a lot of speculation about whether we've gone too far when we talk about suspicion, reasonable suspicion, to something more expansive. >> certainly, glad to -- sorry mike.
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>> let me take a step back and explain what the brendan center did with the report we just released. what we did with the report was try to understand the new role that state and local police are playing in national security. so what kind of information is being collected? what's being done with it? what kind of oversight and accountability is there in the system? and unfortunately, what we found, i could only describe as a state of organized chaos. you know, you have police officers across the country, being told to collect and share suspicious activity. but there really isn't clear or consistent guidance about what that actually means, or what should be done with the thousands of reports that are generated each year. and it turns out that this actually presents a big problem for not only civil rights and civil little bit but for national security as well. >> mike, i want to get you in this conversation.
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what is currently the definition of suspicious activity? >> well it's actually suspicious behavior. and it doesn't have to do with what a person appears to be, what their religious affiliation is, their ethnicity, whatever their profile of who they are as a human being, it is the actions that are occurring. the nationwide suspicious activity reporting period, nsi, is the program being operated with dhs and in cooperation with other agencies and with state and local input of what are those activities, that are -- or behaviors i should say that have previously been seen to be engaged in other terrorist plots. and those are defined in the nsi, they're pushed out there for local law enforcement to understand. and training local law enforcement through our terrorism liaison officers programs is an education for
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civil rights and civil liberties because some of these activities are protected activities. >> jim i'll go to you. some of the suspicious activities are allegedly staying at bus stops too long, people who don't need to be in a neighborhood, sitting in a parked car for too long. >> one of the real challenges of affirmatively going out and trying to find things their suspicious, is people often gather information or see as suspicious people doing things that are consistent with crime or terrorism but they don't realize they should ignore things that are also consistent with lawful behavior. you see lots of examples of people taking photographs of big buildings or bridges or whatever that may be. well that's consistent with casing a joint for a terrorist attack but it's mrs. consistent with being a tour -- also consistent with being a tourist or a photographer. that fails the real test of suspicion and fails to move around in these fusion centers
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and be be collect into reports that really don't help much in the terrorism community. >> before we go to break, omar. >> whether this is is actually effective, robby says, they may contribute to this, in protecting or preventing attacks. and dominique says, local surveillance has lower impact on crime rates. >> keep tuning in using the hashtag #ajam stream. we'll be right back.
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weekdays at 5 eastern only on al jazeera america >> we're backbreaking down how local police factor into counterterrorism. check out my screen . the senate subcommittee did 13 months of reporting originating from the fusion centers in 2009 and 2010, could not identify a single terrorism threat or a single contribution made to identify a terrorist plot. mike you have read this story. can you name anything in >> absolutely. as far as that first report that came out in october of last year, there's been a subsequent report that came out in july of this year that kind of addresses many of those issues including the information that was collected and plots that were thwarted, information that was recovered, and just looking back, you know at
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the last ten plus years of the 45 plots that were terrorist plots that were being acted upon within the united states, we had six of those that were disrupted through suspicious activity reporting. true, a good portion of that is based on traditional joint terrorism task force and local law enforcement investigations. but i want people to know that fusion centers are not some appendage that doesn't work in law enforcement environment. it is local law enforcement. i work for the san mateo police department. we manage and operate these centers. so all these tips when these are coming in fortunately our terrorism supports that terrorism effort but support all other critical investigations that local law enforcement is doing. >> well we have actually a lot
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of skepticism coming on line. keith says thus far, nothing has done anything to stop in the terrorism. if zero effective then yes it has been very effective. it is pretty funny there. michael price, essentially when we're talking about the amount of surveillance that's happening, a lot of us are saying we are collecting so much use not useful information, it's like collecting hay on top of a haystack. >> it does appear that way. a government accountability report that was published, 95% of the suspicious activity reports filed by state and local police in fusion centers are never investigated 50 fbi. that should give -- by the fbi. that should give you some
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indication of the junction information that's being swept up by the state and local police. when that happens, it makes it more difficult to identify real threats, when you have so much irrelevant or useless information pumping through the information, it really is like adding hay to the hay stacks. >> what are the civil liberties concerns in this collection of information? >> well, when you have vague rules like we have here and the rules are inconsistent, and police can file reports without any suspicion of criminal activity, there's always the risk that officers will fall back on their own bias or preconceptions. and that's a concern in this case. there's been a troubling trend towards reporting individuals who appear muslim or appear middle eastern. you have to think about how this works. if photography is considered suspicious, and people are
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taking photographs all the time, then how does the police officer decide who to stop and question? how do they decide whose name goes into terrorism database? and so there are some serious profiling concerns about the program at large, and then there are some serious free speech concerns as well. police departments and fusion centers have been apt to target constitutionally protected activities. political speech. there are reports out of the boston fusion center for example, that show that officers were targeting peace activists and members of occupy boston without any suspicion that they had violated the law. so i think you have both sort of discrimination concern on the one hand and a first amendment concern on the other. >> an omar our community -- and omar our community seems concerned.
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>> about the same thing michael is concerned about. grandmothers for people i don't think this is a good idea. video comment from andrew. >> surveillance units like the dac in oakland is much like the patriot act has actually been used more for drug cases than terrorism cases. i feel that these local surveillance units will not be used so much for national security but will be used by the local police to monitor and harass the groups that critique the police department, make it look bad, point out malfeasance and abuse and i think that's a legitimate concern. >> jim do you find these concerns lengt legitimate? >> sure. suspicious activity reporting, they say there's something odd about this guy jim harper. that goes into data that could be transferred between jurisdictions. lets say they cure it, we realize there isn't anything
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wrong with this guy but it's been disseminated, they have the bad info in there somewhere else, they cux to fourth amendment issues. if there's going to be adverse information about me floating around in databases, there needs to be ways to correct it, whether it should be collected in the first place is a question as well. >> absolutely. as far as information that come from officers around the country, tips and leads, information that come from 18,000 agencies in the millions officers are collecting that information, not just of sar but people calling in, plainltsd, whatever it may be, that information of those millions of reports that they get every day, finally come up through the suspicious activity reporting process, the fusion snrers where analysts look into the data and all of our fusion centers in america, in order to be a fusion center, have to have a privacy policy. have to be approved.
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you have to receive training. they are analyzed open that privacy and the institution my own center takes eight hours a year of that training plus every time we get together, that's a huge topic. so when we look at millions of tips turning into under you know 26,000 suspicious activity reporting -- reports and of that 26,000, you get to a thousand that are actionable that 1 out of 25, i think that's fairly efficient use of the process. from whittling down from millions of 25,000 to thousand. >> do you think there's currently enough oversight of these fusion centers? who watches the watchmen? >> that's really the problems here. i respect and appreciate the fact that fusion centers across the country have been developing their privacy policies and that they're paying attention to the privacy issues.
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but there's really no way to verify that any fusion center is even following its own rules. most fusion centers in the country have virtually no independent oversight. there are -- there are privacy officers within fusion centers but those tend to be staff members. one of the things i think we would really like to see happen is oversight at the federal level, and in particular, i think that congress needs to require independent audits of these fusion centers, as a condition of future funding. >> we'll get some community, omar go for it. >> some in our community agree. we have kay who says i think surveillance of the police is very important. on the other hand, there are people who are raising concerns that are beyond the typical. nows says freedom it's key for them -- anonymous says freedom, we're not helpless and then dominic goes on to say very
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unequal and democratic societies, counterterrorism is a smoke screen. do you buy that? this is not just about this kind of surveillance not being effective, whether there's a sinister motive underneath. motive. i don't think big brother is around the corner but big brother is somewhere down the hall. we did a lot of things after 9/11 that headed in that discretion and i -- direction that can be revol relative secure. i don't think that the people in fusion centers are trying to build a surveillance state but they might unfortunately be steps on that pathway. what they're doing is not necessarily helpful, isn't necessarily good for our privacy, isn't consistent with our values, so we might reconsider whether we want them doing that or produces better
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law enforcement gains. murder and rape is not sofd as much as it should be -- satisfied as much as it should be. as opposed to doing counterterrorism which is an kind of indulgence, since there's so much terrorism here. >> after the break, keep tweeting us your thoughts using the hashtag #ajam stream. was -- prince william was dating kate middleton. >> ross shimabuku is here with sport. >> dennis rodman is in north korea to train basketball players for an upcoming player. he wants everyone to know he's not a joke. this is the same guy who dressed up in a wedding gown and will rite a book with his bff, kim jong un. the 52-year-old rodman, who
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never shies away from the spotlight arrived in north korea
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>> from big brother to little brother. governmental surveillance is raising a lots of concern. mike, what are practical reforms given the availability of increasingly invasive technology? >> i think we've got two things going on here. we need better rules and stronger oversight at all levels of government. with respect to the rules, i think it should be common sense, although it's not case across the country, that the police should not be collecting and sharing intelligence files, unless there's some suspicion of criminal activity. and i think that is the rule
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that is taught to police cadets for street stops throughout the country. it should be the rule in this case. it will provide a filter and help prevent some of the civil liberties concerns that we've talked about so far. and again, the other very important aspect of this is to make sure that at the local level at the state level and at the federal level there is somebody there checking to make sure that the police are following the rules. at the state and local level that may mean something like an inspector-general. >> well, mike, you are the president of the national fusion center association. do you think there's currently enough oversight and accountability or do you think there's room for reforming? >> i always agree with michael that there's always room to improve operations in the way we do things. but at the heart of things these are state and local law enforcement organizations to support those efforts. the all crimes perspective of looking at those priority threats in communities that's
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what fusion centers do. terrorism is one of those threats but we support many of those activities. now as far as the oversight, i agree that as we progress, that you know, beyond just the dhs assessments that we get every year, that it should be more of a unified approach and we're currently working on a national strategy document to kind of help move that along. but i agree that oversight of all public safety efforts is a good thing. >> all right omar i know our community is chiming in. >> they put out the question of whether congress could act to provide more oversight for the surveillance or reign it in in some -- rein it in in some ways. the atmosphere around it maybe they can take a stand. and then we have alex who says no we have expected congress to do absolutely nothing, ever. >> what are your feeling about obstacles to this issue? >> i go a different way, whether
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we should have federal funding for these things at all. if they were truly truly state run they would be more responsive to states and localities, and more responsive to these communities, rather than doing high level rather dramatic counterterrorism stuff. the idea of reform is not out of the realm of possibility because the report from october 2012 was co-authored by a republican and democrat, tom coburn from oklahoma and i'm not going to be able to remember his colleague. but that means republicans and democrats both are interested in this for their own reasons. but if they get together with reforms that should include whether or not they fund this at all, there is certainly a possibility that congress is hard to get to act anything. >> michael look there always seems to be a tension between national security concerns and civil liberties. do you think we can bridge this divide and come forward? will both sectors come together? especially in the age of wide
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sprej surveillance -- spread surveillance and technology? >> it is always an importance to consider the balance. in the 1960s and 70s there were intelligence abuses and the reforms that came out of that process involved reasonable suspicious of criminal activity. we need to go back to that, there is room to do that, i think, to balance it out. >> mike, do you think there's synergy models that american can adopt, even internationally, all law enforcement that can work together well? >> actually one more interesting thing i've seen over the last ten years since i've been doing this is the model we've been building is what other countries have been looking at. one of the issues that we have currently is that as far as the funding stream, as far as what the u.s. government provides the fusion centers, that's the most confusing thing at all. you know there is no direct
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funding from fema to fusion centers, it goes through states, goes through local urban area security issues. and the only thick in theirness -- thing in their justification that they have to provide to fema is they provide centers. other than that it is up to them how they spend that money. there is no consistency as far as that mechanism. >> jim we have the final 15 seconds. give us the final word. >> i'm pretty simple about this stuff. the federal government can stop funding this entirely. the good news is terrorism is pretty well under control in the united states. pinprick attacks may happen, there is no 100% way to prevent them. we should have the ships that sailed after 9/11 back into port. >> that's all, until next time laura and i will see you online.
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